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At a loss

27 Aug

I think I don’t take loss very well. Not losing, like losing a game, but losing people. I noticed my last blog post was the passing of my friend Dania. Over the weekend we all lost an American Hero – Neil Armstrong. Someone we always called Uncle Neil. You see, I’m an Armstrong too. I never met him in person, but my family did visit with his family when we moved from Michigan to Illinois back in the early 70’s. I have memories of being in their driveway in Wapakoneta, Ohio as a small child. And as a small child that’s about all I remember. I was about seven at the time. My mom knew Neil’s mom and Mrs. Armstrong sent my mom (also Mrs. Armstrong) a patch that Neil took up to space. One of those nifty Apollo 11 embroidered patches. But it is a large one and very well made. Not like the kind you get in the souvenir shop. I have one of those too for comparison.

Anyway, it was still a shock to hear the news on Saturday. Still felt weird. Like something is now missing. Even though I didn’t know him, there was always that knowing that he was a distant relation. My great grandfather or great, great grandfather was the brother or cousin of his grandfather, or great grandfather. Something like that. We do share that high Armstrong forehead. And family history has never been a strong point in my family, so that’s why I have no idea what the exact connection is. But there’s always been one. And now that’s gone.

I’m finding it odd how sad about it I am. The loss of my father made an enormous impact on me. I was 23 when he succumbed to lung cancer and it was very hard on me. I felt abandoned. I was so angry and hurt and I took it personally that he left me. In reading about Neil’s death online I stumbled upon a photo (which may or may not be real, I didn’t look much closer than a glance) that showed Neil in a casket. I immediately flashed back to my father lying there in a casket. I suppose that is normal, but it surprised me. It’s been almost 23 years since my father died. I try not to think about that much anymore.

The point of this post, rather than my sad rambling, was to post something I read today regarding Uncle Neil. It was a comment on a news story. I read a lot of them today, and the comments were making me even more sad. The conspiracy theorists, the political piling on, it was really pretty nasty. But in the fray, there was one that, while still sad, I thought was quite poignant. My hats off to the author of this comment.

I think it will be a very, very, very long time before we see that kind of individual again, maybe never. It’s not that I don’t think it’s possible, it’s just that today’s mindset is so different. I wouldn’t take anything away from those who made tremendous, and in some cases the ultimate sacrifices on 9/11, or the brave and courageous souls who defend and have defended our nation. It’s just that it’s becoming more and more of a rarity. These days people quickly become so self absorbed and fail to remember the big picture. How much money and fame they can achieve becomes the ultimate goal. They don’t want to do it for the benefit of others, be it a neighbor, city, nation, or in the case of Armstrong and the likes of him, for mankind. They want to do it for themselves. It’s no longer noble to make a sacrifice for others. It really is sad. Hopefully, it will change for the better, but probably not any time soon.

 

Farewell Uncle Neil. I hope I can be half as good of a person as you were.

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I miss you, dear friend

4 Apr

I lost a dear friend over the weekend. We’d only met in person once, but she was a person who came into my life like a ball of fire and left an enormous hole that I’m not sure will be filled again.

 

When I joined the “innerwebs” as she used to put it, it was a new thing. I sold stuff on auction sites. And once I found ebay I discovered I still had this love of Fisher Price toys. The Little People. Friends who are always smiling. And through Fisher Price I met Dania. We belonged to an e-group – long before the days of Facebook and social media. She was this wacky chick with a sharp sense of humor. We immediately hit it off. The more we chatted we discovered that we were like long lost sisters.

I don’t know for sure when we first met up, but it was sometime around 1997. We both had newborns. She lived in Virginia, but complained about it a lot as she was a Canadian native. We had the best of times, all online. We stayed up together on New Year’s Eve in 1999 to see if the world would end. Or computers would crash. Neither happened. But we had a blast. My soon to be ex-husband was none too pleased.

He used to call my fellow Fisher Price peeps my “imaginary friends.” But I’ve never been a very social girl. I’ve had one or two friends at a time, but as people do, they go in and out of your life. My imaginary friends, though, have been there for me. Dania in particular. Dania was the first person I told about my “situation” at home. She encouraged me to stand on my own. She listened to me. She was a wonderfully strong woman.

My dear friend Dania left behind a loving husband, two teenagers and an adorable baby girl. She will be sorely missed by everyone who knew her. Including me. I can see the smirk on her face and feel her rolling her eyes at me.

Goodbye Dania. I miss you more than you could possibly know.

 

Wonderful Deliciousness

31 Jan

Oh people. OH PEOPLE. I must share with you the wonderful deliciousness we discovered on Pinterest. Yes, I too have succumbed to the addiction of Pinterest. And one of the first things I noticed on Pinterest was this gorgeous photo:

First off, the color of this photograph just takes my breath away. The cookies look fab, but everything about this photo just screams “I gotta have this.”

So let me just say, my girly girl made my these cookies last night and besides being super easy – 4 ingredients, I think it was, they were super yummy and delicious. Gotta say some of the best treats I’ve ever had.

Check out the recipe and more gorgeous photos on the TidyMom.net website.

And don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest if you wanna see what other cool stuff I’ve found lately. So far, this is my only recipe, but I’ll be looking for more stuff for other people to cook for me soon.

My baby girl

24 Nov

This year, as it was back in 1994, Thanksgiving Day is also my baby girl’s birthday. My sweet baby girl was born 17 years ago on Thanksgiving Day. Thus giving my OB a day away from his in-laws, which he was quite gleeful about. My baby girl was supposed to be born on the Tuesday of that week. She had other ideas.

 

 

She did everything she could to stay in, but in the end was forcibly evicted at 5:24 AM on November 24, 1994. She was the most calm baby ever. She could entertain herself for hours on end. She was always happy and smiley. She has a bubbly outgoing personality (not sure where that came from – so unlike me!) and would talk to anyone.

 

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY GIRL!

 

 

A feature! A feature!

23 Nov

Monday we were featured on Sweet Stella’s Mompreneur Monday blog. Shannon, who writes Sweet Stella’s featured us a while ago and was nice enough to do a followup. A bit more background info on Blanket Statements and why I started this company. I usually try to limit the “personal stuff” I put out there, but I guess bits and pieces come out.

 

 

I was especially touched by the very sweet sentiment she wrote as an intro:

 

 

Please visit Shannon’s blog Sweet Stella’s and take a look at her website and Etsy Shop too to see her cool stuff!

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veteran’s Day 2011

11 Nov

A personal post, on this Veteran’s Day.

This is a photo of two veterans, one of whom is my Papa. He’s the one on the right. He served in WWII as a Fireman First Class, honorably discharged on April 6, 1946. I’m not sure who his friend was in this photo, he never spoke much about being in the military. But this is my veteran. I miss him terribly.

William E. Armstrong

1926-1989

Trusting These Times

13 Sep

In continuing yesterday’s tale, one thing I’ve noticed is that I am acutely aware now of the vast, vast disparities between those that have, and those that have not. I’ve been on both sides. And I’ve certainly not hit rock bottom by any means. We’ve been going through some tough times, but my kids are well taken care of. They enjoy activities at school, they might not get what they want immediately, it may take a couple weeks or a month for me to save the money to buy what they need, but they do get whatever they need.

That being said, I wonder sometimes how other people can get by. I am separated at the moment, not divorced. My husband claims the kids, so I basically am considered “single.” Which means with my salary I don’t qualify for any assistance. Even though I am basically their full-time caregiver. I take care of them from after school until bedtime. All activity driving, most meals. Doctor’s appointments, shopping trips. They are with me. So how do people who make too much for assistance get by when they have to take care of kids too? And your job doesn’t pay nearly enough? It is something I’ve been pondering a lot. I’m not quite to the point where I can pick up an additional part time job yet, but it may be in my future. I just don’t know how to work that out with juggling the kids.

So while pondering these issues I am also acutely aware of the other side as well. The side I used to be on. Now please don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not saying any of this is bad, I, at this point in my life, just find it extremely curious. As an entrepreneur with Blanket Statements and Happy Jack Designs I’m subscribed to many other entrepreneur sites. And the vastness of “things” one can get is just incredible. I’m wondering if I’m embracing this time in my life as a way to see it. To figure out where I want to be in the range of “being-ness.”  I will tell you, being where I am right now is an eye opener. It is something I had never really considered.

Growing up my mother used to tell us we couldn’t have whatever we wanted because someday we wouldn’t have money. And she didn’t want us to be used to having money and whatever we wanted. I’m not quite sure that approach helped me any, but it is an interesting concept. We were upper-middle class growing up. I don’t think anything, though, can really prepare you for the hardships when they occur.

These times challenge you to trust that everything will be alright. All your needs will be met. But it is also a time to re-examine what you thought were your needs. When it comes right down to it, you really don’t have very many.

Don’t know if any of that makes any sense, but I feel better venting it already. And if I do, maybe someone else will too. That is the point, after all. Working it all out.

Embracing the Feelings

12 Sep

I’ve noticed some things lately. I’m trying to do more of that. Noticing things. Rather than just going about my day and sloughing off whatever comes my way. I’m trying to embrace the feelings – good or bad. And look at them. And ponder them. And maybe come to some conclusions. Or maybe not.

I’ve been having a hard time again lately. Not quite sure why. My ego is bruised at work, but that isn’t really anything new. I am struggling again with finances. Not sure why that is either – lots of fees and payments for things, I guess. School photos, special meals, car upkeep, gas…mostly gas. Driving around in a not very gas efficient 1999 mini van is killing me. I really do cringe at the thought of getting another car, though, after the last time I went to a car dealer and they laughed at me. Seriously. Laughed in my face. That was when I found out the mortgage wasn’t being paid. That was 3-4 years ago now. I’m not looking forward to going back to a car dealer.

So anyway, I’m looking seriously at this lack of funds thing. This has probably been the longest stretch we’ve gone at scraping money together. My check on the first didn’t last long at all. It usually doesn’t with rent coming out of that one. But insurance went up this month too for some reason. Wasn’t expecting that. So last week we started scraping money. I had to send a payment in for the boy last week that consisted mostly of change. Because I didn’t have any actual dollars. That was a new one. The girl and I took $15 and went grocery shopping – stocked up on as many $1 items as we could find. Got the cheapest milk we could find. Cereal goes a long way. Bag of chicken patties was our splurge item at $5 for the bag. But you can do multiple things with chicken patties. (We did this weekend!)

After that I took my last $20 and put 5 gallons of gas in the van. That was last Thursday. Friday I had to drive all over kingdom come for work. My $20 in gas was gone. That $20 lasted about a day. My reimbursement for gas won’t come until September 22nd. Luckily, my neighbor once again, bailed me out with gas and filled up my car for me. That makes me very nervous though. I’m not sure how I can pay that back. A full tank of gas is a luxury I just can’t afford anymore.

That’s the kind of thing I’ve been thinking about lately. The little things that I’d never ever considered before I had to. About how people live in situations like this. Whether of their own making or not. My number one priority now is gas in the car. To make sure I can get to work and get the kids where they need to be. Food is number two. Making sure I can feed the kids something. Planning what I can make that might last a couple of meals. Nutrition certainly takes a back seat when you are scraping. Cheap food is all carb-laden. Eggs are good. We had those yesterday for brunch – another good way to go when you are trying to conserve what you have. Combine mealtimes.

I’ve been existing on coffee and water at work. I did find two dollars in the purse that I rarely use over the weekend, but those are like gold bars right now. I don’t dare spend them. I’ve got to make it through another 4 days until payday. And don’t get me wrong. I know I have friends out there that would help me out if I would ask. And it’s not that I am too proud to accept help. I’ve accepted a lot of help already. That is part of my resistance, but mainly, and I know this will sound absolutely crazy, but I am embracing this time in my life. I am going through this for a reason. I chose to leave my seemingly “normal” life where everything looked fine from the outside but was in disarray on the inside. Things are in a different sort of disarray at the moment, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I know that sounds absurd. But as I said above, there is some reason for this.

Gratitude for what I have.

School Memories – Part 2

30 Aug

Junior high was a horrendous experience. I am so so so so sooooo glad that my daughter didn’t have the same experiences that I did. I am betting that is because she has such a marvelous outlook on life. So happy all the time. She was always a happy girl. Me? Not so much. I’m not sure where I picked up my skepticism. But I never had that belief outpouring of positiveness that she does. I was always watching and waiting for the other shoe to drop. That’s kind of my take on growing up. I was waiting for it all to blow up.

Happy go-lucky...that's my girl!

I hate using the word hate, but I really, really, really hated junior high. I can’t stress enough, how much I disliked it. If there is one thing that I have learned about myself in my life’s journey so far, it is that I look to others for my sense of worth. I am getting better at that, at finding who I am in me rather than in others, but it is very slow going. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I’m not sure who I am. So as a middle schooler in the late 70’s who was a little bit different, I didn’t fit in. The cliques started developing in 5th grade and continued full force in junior high.

I was always different because I could do stuff other kids couldn’t. I could play guitar, and I started playing other instruments as well. And when I was in junior high I used to go to high school for band. I was always ahead and always good. And that was enough for people not to like me. That, and I was incredibly quiet, terrified really, so I didn’t say much to people. I later learned that in high school the other kids thought I was stuck up. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. Painfully shy, with no self esteem. And I looked to the other kids for my sense of self and couldn’t find it. I just always felt like the outcast. So it is hard to find good things in my box of school memories related to junior high. I remember one time in 8th grade one of the popular girls said she loved my handwriting. That was probably the highlight of those three years.

Now, high school was a different story. At the time I didn’t realize it, but looking back at it now, I really enjoyed high school. Or maybe I just really enjoy looking back at it now. With that perspective of time. I was still shy, and quiet, and kept mostly to myself, but loved music. Loved it. That was my passion in high school. I had some fantastic teachers as well. My freshman year English teacher, my band director, my AP English teacher. My Adv. Algebra teacher – he was funny, and I had a few friends in that class who would talk to me. But my favorite thing about that time period was being “the chick bass player.” That kids from other schools knew me. Well, not “knew me” but knew of “that chick bass player.” I got a big kick out of that. And that was my persona back then. That was me. I’ve missed that terribly.

That was a time when I thought I knew who I was. When I probably felt my most complete. High school and then college. I felt pretty good about college too. I struggled a bit with a major, who doesn’t, right? I went to school as a biology major and switched to commercial art. A big change. I’d never imagined myself an artist. I still don’t really, although I have made good use of my degree. I worked as a graphic designer for many many years. Still use my skills on an almost daily basis at my “day job” too. So I think I made a good choice in the end. But neither of those majors was what I wanted to do. And even now, in my mid 40’s I’m not sure what it is I want to do. There were so many things I thought about…envisioned myself doing, but in looking at other people to define who I was, I didn’t do any of those things I envisioned. I bought in to other people’s expectations and lived up to those instead. I missed being me.

That’s part of my journey, part of the reason I started Blanket Statements. I’m trying to find me. I’m trying to figure out who I am. And figure out what it is I am here to do. And I hope that perhaps I can help one other person realize that it’s ok to be who you think you are. You don’t have to live up to other people’s expectations. You can live your own life. The way you always wanted. I saw a magazine article today while waiting for my son’s MRI. It said, ” You’re never too old to be what you always wanted to be.” I thought I was too old. But maybe I’m not. I’ll figure it out.

School Memories – Part 1

29 Aug

As some of you know, I work for the local school district as my “day job.” The last few weeks have been super crazy busy with the usual start of the new school year routines. Each year we have what I fondly refer to as “Rah-rah” day. This year’s Rah-rah day featured several student speakers – one of which struck a nerve with me. And obviously lots of other people as there weren’t many dry eyes in the house. This young lady spoke about the memories you have of your time in school. She recently graduated out of our district and is now in high school. She told a story about pulling out her box of memories and looking them over, one by one. And as she was speaking I have to admit my mind started wandering backwards as well.

I am a firm believer in putting things in boxes. Much to the dismay of some who know me, since my boxed existence proves to be quite limited at times. But boxing things up in neat tidy rows is comforting to me. Everything in its place. Even the memories. Anyway, I wanted to take a little written stroll down memory lane myself, in commemoration of the beginning of another school year. I’d love to hear your stories about school too!

When I was growing up we lived in a suburb of Detroit. My former sister-in-law used to call me Wonder Bread. Because they grew up in Detroit. And we were in the suburbs. This was in the late 60’s to early 70’s. Times were turbulent back then. I remember going to the local grade school for Kindergarten. I don’t remember too much about it, but what I do remember I think is kind of funny. I remember pinching my finger in the big metal door and it really hurting, but I didn’t want to tell anyone. I remember falling at recess and skinning my knee and my teacher putting that iodine stuff on it that burned like crazy. I remember I loved to color the pictures on my worksheets. My teacher held up one of my papers one time, to show my coloring, but hid the rest of the paper because I didn’t do very well on the actual school work. Just the coloring part. lol. Kindergarten is also what started me off on my quest for antique toys…we had the Fisher Price Milk Carton set and I just LOVED those milk cartons and the little carrier. Seriously. I had one of those subconscious yearnings that didn’t get satisfied until adulthood. Yes, I bought myself a set off ebay.

 

 

For first grade we were shipped off to private school. Busing became an issue in Detroit and the suburbs and my parents didn’t want us spending an hour on the bus into the city, so we (my sister and I) attended a Lutheran School in a neighboring town. My memories of first grade are mostly of learning my left hand from my right hand. Left hand is the door, right hand is the window. At least that’s what was to my right and left as I sat in class. There was a cemetery out the window. It fascinated me as a child. There was a pond with lily pads and frogs and a big wrought iron fence. What’s not to love there?! Also, I was bit by a dog in first grade (on the face, mind you) thus ending my quest for Miss America (that’s another story entirely) and I remember getting a vocabulary word that you had to demonstrate for the class one day. My word was “SMILE” except I couldn’t demonstrate it as I had a band-aid over part of my mouth due to the dog bite and stitches. I remember everyone staring at me.

 

For second grade we moved to Illinois. We moved twice that year. My mother didn’t like our first house so we moved in the summer and again the next Spring. With just a few weeks left of second grade. In my first school that year I had a teacher who didn’t like girls. But I remember her making great use of the opaque projector and doing fantastic drawings. I also remember having a science packet of bird anatomy. I thought that was pretty rocking awesome. Plus I got to color the birds. My second second grade class I remember the teacher reading us “James and the Giant Peach” while we sat on the linoleum floor. I remember loving that story, even though I came in towards the end of it. And I remember picking chunks of wax off the floor.

In third grade I remember taking a toaster apart and thinking that was the best thing ever. Getting to see the insides of stuff. And one time our teacher yelled at our class on my birthday because the class wasn’t listening. I, of course, took it totally personally and cried my eyes out. She had to take me out to the hallway and explain that I didn’t do anything wrong, but the scolding was for the people who did do something wrong. That should have been a pretty clear indicator that my self esteem wasn’t the strongest.


 

In fourth grade I had the coolest teacher ever! Mrs. Peterson was her name and she had us do all sorts of arts and crafts projects. I excelled that year! I remember nailing nails into a piece of wood and painting the nail heads. I remember making papier mache puppets, and tie dyeing shirts, and drawing lots and lots of maps. I was an expert map-maker. By this time I had also been playing guitar for 5 years already and used to play in school quite a bit for assemblies and just for entertainment in art class.

Fifth grade I remember making bulletin board displays and categorizing diseases instead of going out for recess. I was already pretty much a loaner girl and didn’t really like sitting outside by myself for recess, so I’d con my teacher into letting me stay inside and do other stuff. Fifth grade was really the precursor to my downward spiral of junior high.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

 

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